ACAS issues new guidance on suspending employees from work

Acas has published new guidance on suspending an employee from work.  A salient point of the latest advice is the fact that suspension from employment can have a long-term detrimental impact on the suspended person including their health, well-being and their credibility in the workplace.

A recent decision by the High Court has found that suspension is no longer deemed to be a ‘neutral act’. That was the spanner thrown into the works by the case of Agoreyo v London Borough of Lambeth. (Read More)

Alternatives to employee suspension

The guidance seeks to direct employers toward considering other options before deciding to suspend. These include,

  • being moved to a different area of the workplace
  • working from home
  • changing their working hours
  • being placed on restricted duties
  • working under supervision
  • transferring them to a different role within the organisation (the role should of a similar status to their normal role, but the same terms and conditions of employment).

When to suspend an employee?

The guidance covers,

  • suspension as part of a disciplinary procedure
  • suspension on medical grounds
  • suspension due to a risk to a new or expectant mother

How to suspend an employee?

It also provides advice on how an employee should be suspended, pay during suspension, how long a suspension should last, communications during a suspension and ending a suspension.

Things to consider before suspending an employee

Josh Hudson, councillor at ACAS gives some expert advice on things to consider before suspending an employee;

“I’ve lost count of the number of employees I’ve spoken to who were suspended from work. What united most of them was fear of the unknown. Too often reassurance that suspension meant no assumption of guilt did little to relieve stress levels.

So here are a few things to reflect on before considering suspension:

  • We assume everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, but changing behavioural norms and societal values means that there are grey areas about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour at work. Make sure all staff know how they are expected to treat each other.
  • Disciplinary and grievance processes can be very stressful for all parties and damage mental wellbeing. This can be even worse if an employee is kept in the dark. Therefore keeping them updated about suspension, its progress and how much longer it may take is important.
  • Suspension may be necessary but how it is handled can affect the whole workforce? Who picks up the workload when someone is suspended? How does this affect team morale? Employers should think about the ramifications.
  • Consider all possible alternatives to suspension. In most scenarios an employee could remain in the normal role while an investigation is conducted. If this is not viable, might a temporary change of role or hours be better? Of course, there may be some occasions where it does become necessary to suspend, for example when there is a risk of physical harm.
  • If a decision to suspend is taken, an employer should keep it under constant review. Regular communication with the employee is essential. And don’t forget about offering support if/when they come back to work. If the investigation shows no sanction is necessary then don’t assume they can just carry on where they left off.

The best working relationships are built on trust. This can take years to build but take only moments to destroy, so don’t give it up easily. When problems do arise in the workplace, employers should take a considered approach. Weigh up the issues and think about whether suspension is necessary or not.”

Get the new guidance Click here.

Policy Updates

Onrezume Policy Portal Members – HR – Disciplinary Policy will be updated to reflect the new guidance from ACAS – notifications will be sent by email.